While U.N. talked, the Jews were carving Palestine with a sword. In a whirlwind week they seized Haifa, attacked Jaffa, won Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee and tried to cut the Arab supply road into Jerusalem. For the first time since the Romans leveled Jerusalem 1,800 years ago, a Jewish army ate Passover matzoth and bitter herbs around campfires in the field. Said Jewish Agency Chairman David Ben-Gurion: "We stand on the eve of the Jewish State . . . heartened by the victories of our army . . . We have just begun to buckle on the sword."
Behind the Mortars. The Jews' most dazzling military prize of the week was Haifa, the only port where seagoing ships can dock. As British troops prepared last week to withdraw from all of the city except the dock area, Jewish soldiers began to filter into the town. Others gathered on the slopes of Mount Carmel. One morning at i a.m. they struck. Behind a creeping mortar barrage, the Jews moved into the Arab quarters of the city. Bewildered Arabs gathered for one brief counterattack, then collapsed in leaderless confusion. Within a day, the Jews had taken Haifa.
Of the 60,000 Arabs who lived there, many had fled to safety even before the attack started. As the panicky evacuation began during the Jewish assault, the remaining thousands gathered what few belongings they could carry. Lashed on by the mortar barrage, more than a thousand men, women & children hammered at the No. 3 gate of the British-controlled port area to seek safety. Royal Marine guards finally let them on to the docks.
"Pathetic Treasures." "One entire jetty," cabled TIME Correspondent Eric Gibbs, "was packed with these refugees, sitting on their pathetic bundles or clutching them with the strength of despair. What did these simple, bewildered people seize in the moment of panic? A small Turkish carpet, a radio, a sewing machine were among the treasures. A three-year-old hugged his pet pigeon. One woman brought a battered aluminum chamberpot. Hour after hour they sat, waiting for barges, British landing craft and other odd boats now doing ferry service across the blue bay to Acre." Other thousands fled to the Arab-held hills near Nablus.
The mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by orders of Arab leaders, left the Arab quarter of Haifa a ghost city. More than pride and defiance was behind . the Arab orders. By withdrawing Arab workers, their leaders hoped to paralyze Haifa. Jewish leaders said wishfully: "They'll be back in a few days. Already some are returning."
Coastal Fortress. One problem for the Jews was how to fight a war and at the same time keep their coastal farms and factories going. For the moment the accent had to be on the military phase. In their blitz of the past two weeks the Jews had tried to consolidate their coastal base of operations from Haifa to below Tel Aviv. To get rid of one Arab enclave, Irgun Zvai Leumi terrorists tried to capture Jaffa, which the U.N. partition plan gave to the Arabs. British troops checked the Irgun attack.